⊂ EUROPE ⊃
EU rejects UK demand to reopen Brexit deal: The European Commission has rejected a request from London to renegotiate the Brexit agreement’s Northern Ireland protocol, which governs trade between Great Britain and the island of Ireland. The bloc’s lead Brexit official, Maros Sefcovic, said the EU was ready to seek creative solutions but would not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol, as the Northern Ireland section of the Brexit deal is known. Hours earlier, David Frost, the British minister in charge of Brexit, had called for a new balance and threatened the EU with unilaterally overriding the agreement unless it agreed to new rules. Frost told the House of Lords that the UK government had concluded Britain could justify overriding the protocol, but will hold off on doing so for now. The protocol imposes checks on the Irish Sea to protect the EU market from goods and stop foods that might not be compliant with EU standards from entering through Northern Ireland.
UK will pay France to help block migrant arrivals by boat: The British and French governments on Tuesday signed an agreement to curb the number of migrants illegally crossing the Channel, in which the UK will provide €62.7 million in order to reinforce police patrolling on French beaches. The arrangement comes as hundreds of migrants arrived on the English coast in small boats this week, according to the Home Office — a sharp uptick — and as Britain considers introducing the threat of prison sentences for migrants who arrive in that way. As part of the agreement, France will be able to respond by posting more security forces further up the coast, installing and utilising the latest surveillance equipment throughout northern France, said the Home Office, which oversees Britain’s immigration policies. British Home Secretary Priti Patel defended the deal and denied it was „sending good money after bad“ after a £28.2m deal last November failed to limit crossings. Meanwhile, the Belgian government announced a breakthrough Wednesday that it hoped would end a hunger strike by several hundred migrants seeking to collectively obtain legal residency.
politico.eu, nytimes.com, bbc.com (English Channel); apnews.com (Belgium)
Referendum on Hungarian anti-LGBTQ+ law: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday stepped up a culture war with the EU by announcing a referendum on legislation that limits schools‘ teaching about homosexuality and transgender issues. Orban gave no date for the referendum but said it would contain five questions. Hungarians will be asked whether they support the holding of sexual orientation workshops in schools without parents‘ consent, and whether they believe gender reassignment procedures should be promoted among children, Orban said. They will also be asked whether content that could affect sexual orientation should be shown to children without any restrictions, and whether gender reassignment procedures should be made available to children. The EU has started legal action against Hungary on the LGBTQ law. The German government warned that Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ law violates EU values. Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn questioned Hungary’s European Union membership and said the EU should hold a referendum on whether it still wants to tolerate Orbán in the bloc.
nbcnews.com, time.com, spiegel.de
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Austrian court refers Schrems’ Facebook complaint to EU Court: Austria’s Supreme Court has asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for clarification on the legality of Facebook’s processing of personal data after data protection activist Max Schrems brought a case before it. The Court in Luxembourg will now decide whether the US giant respected the EU’s data protection regime since it came into force in 2018. Were the EU Court to rule in favour of Schrems, Facebook could face millions of lawsuits from users who could sue for damages.
Social partners and regions get greater say in conference on EU future: The executive board of the Conference on the Future of Europe decided at Monday’s session to allocate more seats in the Conference Plenary to both regional and local representatives, and social partners, the Slovenian EU presidency said. The rules of procedure were amended at the sixth meeting of the conference’s governing body and the first during the Slovenian presidency to add six elected representatives of both local and regional authorities in the plenary. The board also agreed to increase the number of social partner representatives by four to a total of 12. The changes mean that the current 534-strong plenary will become a body with 550 representatives.
Pegasus spyware: Morocco denies using spyware to target French officials apnews.com
EU environment ministers: Species protection in the EU de.euronews.com
EU-US data privacy talks: Second year with no timeline for resolution wsj.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„The technology is also available to other member states. We are happy to support the other countries in introducing it.“
German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner has called on other EU countries to follow France‘s and Germany‘s lead in banning the controversial practice of culling male chicks, which both countries have pledged to end from January 2022.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Thousands pay last respects to Dutch reporter Peter de Vries: Thousands of people queued for hours outside the Carre Theatre in Amsterdam to pay their last respects at the coffin of crime reporter Peter R. de Vries on Wednesday. Mourners shed tears when they remembered the fearless journalist, who was shot five times in broad daylight after leaving a TV studio on 6 July. He died nine days later from his injuries. Experts think that the murder could have been committed by the same organised crime group that de Vries had been trying to lock up in a 16-person court case. Dutch police arrested two suspects, one accused of being the getaway driver, soon after the murder. De Vries had been threatened in the past but refused offers of police protection, even though the brother of the witness he was advising and his lawyer were killed in 2019.
Germany approves aid package for flood victims and reserves against future pandemics: Germany has approved a €400 million package of immediate aid for victims of last week’s floods and vowed to get started quickly on rebuilding the devastated areas. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the package, financed half by the federal government and half by Germany’s state governments, is to help people deal with the immediate aftermath of the flooding and will be expanded if needed. The German cabinet on Wednesday also approved further details of a plan to build up its reserves against future pandemics. The plan, initially announced last year, will cost a double-digit million euros a year and aims to have one billion surgical masks, more than 240 million heavy-duty respirator masks, and other protective materials on reserve for future outbreaks. With the National Health Protection Reserve, Germany will be prepared for a pandemic situation but also for possible wars or future supply-chain disruptions.
US and Germany strike deal after years of conflict over Nord Stream 2: The United States and Germany on Wednesday announced a deal to allow the completion of the controversial Russian gas pipeline to Europe without the imposition of further US sanctions. The two countries agreed to support Ukraine and to sanction Russia if it tries to use energy supplies for gaining geopolitical leverage. Additionally, Germany and the US plan to invest $1 billion in a „Green Fund“ to foster Ukrainian green-tech infrastructure, encompassing renewable energy and related industries, with the goal of improving Ukraine’s energy independence. Germany also guaranteed that it would reimburse Ukraine for gas transit fees it will lose from being bypassed by Nord Stream 2 until 2024, with a possible 10-year extension. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas heralded the deal as „constructive.“ Despite the agreement, there remains strong bipartisan opposition to the pipeline in the US Congress, as well as in Ukraine and Poland.
Germany and France call for industrial aid due to EU climate plans: German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire have jointly called for industry support in view of the EU’s climate plans. Following a meeting between the two ministers in Paris, Altmaier warned that important production sectors such as the automotive industry could migrate to countries with less stringent rules. That would mean a failure of the ambitious EU plan, the CDU politician explained. Le Maire also demanded compensation for socially weak households.
Police use water cannons to disperse anti-vaccine protesters in Athens: Police fired tear gas and water canon to disperse crowds protesting against coronavirus vaccinations in Athens on Wednesday. The protests were prompted by a government decision earlier in July ordering the mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers and nursing home staff. The government has suggested other groups, such as teachers, may need to be vaccinated in the fall.
New Swedish migration law makes permanent residency harder for refugees and visitors: New migration rules have come into effect in Sweden, making residence permits for refugees time-limited in the first instance instead of permanent. The law was approved by the Swedish parliament last month. It replaces temporary legislation that was brought in five years ago in a bid to bring down record numbers of asylum requests. Before the changes in 2016, since 1984 the Scandinavian country always issued permanent residency permits to refugees and asylum seekers as a rule of thumb. The new rules, put forward by the Social Democrat-Green government in late April, turn this norm on its head. Permits will only be renewed if the circumstances under which they were first issued still apply.
Czech Republic includes right to own firearms in its constitution n-tv.de
Norway: Memorial divides survivors 10 years after Utøya massacre apnews.com
France forced to soften rules after coronavirus Green Pass backlash politico.eu
Cyprus to ask World Security Council for mediation in conflict over divided island zeit.de
Ukraine: President Zelensky to visit Biden at White House in August politico.com
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic: „We cannot survive without the EU“ handelsblatt.com
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
TV dispute in Moldova escalates: former deputy minister unconscious: Two prominent politicians in Moldova clashed during a televised talk show – to such an extent that one of them was left lying unconscious on the floor. Videos published online show the former advisor to President Maia Sandu, Sergiu Tofilat, punching former Deputy Interior Minister Ghenadie Cosovan in the face. Tofilat then stood up and put Cosovan, who remained seated, in a chokehold and threw him to the floor, along with his chair. Cosovan appeared to be unconscious for a few moments. The two had previously argued about the political situation in the country. The TV station later published a picture of the two men standing peacefully next to each other again and shaking hands.